MTV’s Reinvention Mines Heritage as TRL Returns

For my 11th birthday, my parents bought me a 13-inch, white Panasonic TV/VCR set. I was most excited about the fact that it was white, and therefore girly, but also the fact that it gave me access to the exclusive club of sixth grade girls at my school who could invite their friends over to watch MTV.

My neighbor Lauren had been the first of my friends to enter this coterie when her older brother moved out and gave her his TV. I skip my bus stop and get off at her house, raid the fridge for Pepperoni lunch-ables, Dunkaroos and Cherry Coke, and head to her basement playroom, where we’d turn the TV straight to TRL and watch Carson Daly countdown the day’s 10 hottest music videos.

On a typical spring afternoon in 2002, we’d watch the same *NSYNC video for the fourth time that week, along with hits from Blink 182, Christina Aguilara, Britney Spears, Shakira, Michelle Branch, Brandy and Kylie Minogue. Sometimes we’d call in our request, but usually we’d just try to guess which one was coming next. Most of the time, we were right.

Check out this TRL throwback:

By the time my new TV allowed me to form my own girls club to watch TRL, Carson Daly had stepped down as host, and we were introduced to a downright dreamy group of regular “VJs” (video deejays, something I learned much later in life). My friends and I crushed hard on Damien Fahey, and wanted to look just like the trendy, chic Vanessa Minnillo.

Now, MTV is bringing back this iconic video countdown show, which ran for 10 years between 1998 and 2008. TRL’s revival is set for October 2, to be broadcast from a renovated version of its iconic Times Square studio.

TRL will be different than the one I remember— the video countdown model and audience request integration will stay, but the new show yanks the format into the post-2008 world of social and interactive media, with a mélange of linear, social and digital dimensions (expect some TRL Snapchat filters and daily updates on Instagram and Twitter).

A new generation of VJs will rotate through the studio, including, as of now, D.C. Young Fly, Erik Zachary, Amy Pham, Tamara Dhia and Lawrence Jackson. Learn more about the hosts here.

The revival of this flagship show is a logical move for the network as it shepherds in a new era of MTV that is remarkably similar to the one my friends and I would watch on that 13-inch TV in my bedroom.

With revivals of My Super Sweet 16 (a reality show I watched religiously as a teen, which I wrote about here) and Fear Factor (NBC’s gruesome game show, re-invented with a millennial twist), as well as a new show called Siesta Key (created by the same producers responsible for MTV’s original, laid back teen-paradise reality show, Laguna Beach), MTV seems ready for a millennial renaissance.

Watch the teaser for Siesta Key:

And why not? All of us who grew up watching these shows as kids are now in our 20s, able to buy our own TVs (albeit without VHS players attached), subscribe for VOD streaming services or cable packages and browse the internet without parental controls. Above all else, we’re nostalgic for the carefree shows of our childhood.

When I used to watch Kristin Cavallari flirt with Stephen Colletti back in middle school, I desperately wanted to be in her $300 Tory Burch kitten heels. Now, I’m in my mid-20s and have slightly different summer aspirations than spending it prancing around a beach with my high school crush, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relive the fun.

MTV President Chris McCarthy is largely responsible for this mining of the network’s history to inform its current programming. “MTV’s reinvention,” he told recently told The New York Times, “is coming by harnessing its heritage.”

As a business strategy, this has been remarkably successful. In June and July, ratings for MTV’s target demographic – millennials, aka 18 to 34-year-olds—soared. It was the first time the network experienced two consecutive months of ratings growth in four years.

As Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish told The New York Times, “[McCarthy] reset the brand filter, cleaned out the pipeline and began building a new MTV that’s much more based on reality, unscripted and music content.”

What next?

As Kanye would say, “Listen to the kids, bro!”

And that’s exactly what MTV executives are doing by bringing back TRL.

“It’s the right route,” said McCarthy to the New York Times. “When you talk to artists and they say to you, unaware of what we’re doing, can you bring back TRL? We’d be crazy not to reinvent that.”

#Farewell @midnight

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Comedy Central’s @midnight – which aired its final episode last Friday – had a nearly impossible premise: define the indefinable by corralling the social media mosh pit that the internet has become into something graspable and tangible. But for four years and 600 episodes, Chris Hardwick and an ever-shuffling crew of established and up-and-coming comedians did an admirable job of doing exactly that.

“Nothing else on television today has done as much to showcase the humor and improvisational abilities of stand-up comics and comedic actors. In fact, nothing else in the modern peak TV era has replicated what The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson did for comedy.” – Andrew Husband, Uproxx

The format was simple enough: each night, a panel of three comedians competed gameshow-style to contemplate internet-inspired queries in a sort of freestyle inverse Jeopardy, where there were no right answers, only clever ones.

What, for example, would be the most appropriate way to join the Koch Brothers’ celebration of fossil fuels for Earth Day? What would be an ironclad commandment for a theoretical Star Wars religion? If Pitbull ran for governor of Florida, what would his campaign slogan be? What, you are probably wondering, would be the advantages of global warming? Arden Myrin, Orlando Jones and Nimesh Patel have their ideas on that one:

The cornerstone of the show, of course, was #HashtagWars, the recurring segment that unleashed bizarre and – for the uninitiated – inexplicable trending Twitter threads every weeknight the show aired. In the final episode, Hardwick himself swerved into button-slamming mode, jumping in as a contestant for the first time in the show’s history, riffing on #BabyMovies, #DeadTV, #StonerBroadway, #AnimalMovies, #DrunkVideoGames and other topics among a rotating power panel of biting comics:

For this raucous, inspired and highly original platform, the show won two Emmys – for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media Social TV Experience – in both 2015 and ’16, as well as copious praise from critics, who lauded the show’s role as a pipeline for emerging comedic talent.

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I Love MTV Malta (IOMTV) 2017

(L-R) Sharlotte Ritchie, Sophie Kasaei, Catherine Hunter, Kristen Hanby, Milly Gattegno, Josh Ritchie

Written by Catherine Hunter, MTV UK PR & Talent Coordinator

It’s crazy to think that just a few weeks ago, I was on a yacht off the Malta coast, filming for the comeback of MTV’s 1990s smash hit dance music show The Grind. Rewind to eight hours earlier, pulling up to the Radisson Blu at 3 a.m. with Geordie Shore’s Sophie Kasaei and Ex on the Beach’s Josh Ritchie, spirits were definitely high (apart from the thought of being awake in less than four hours). But who cares when you’re in Malta, eh?

Sitting at my desk in London, thinking back to the Isle of MTV (IOMTV) festivities, I can say this was the best MTV event I have worked on in my more than two years at the network.

Ahead of the jam-packed three days, I was determined to make the most of the experience and help get the most out of our press and influencers while on the island. Upon arriving in Malta, my role for the next couple of days would be talent management and press liaison for the UK. This ranged from managing the MTV talent and ensuring that they partook in all of their prior arranged commitments, to facilitating interviews with show talent at the press conference.

I have worked on countless MTV events, big and small, and it always amazes me how much hard work goes into them. From running around backstage at the EMAs trying to locate an earbud for Justin Bieber to talent managing MTV talent at IOMTV, the work is varyied often very hard, but also incredibly fun. The saying “Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work another day in your life,” resonates with me whenever I work an MTV event, and this year’s IOMTV was no different.

Sunday was pretty incredible, watching the production and recreation of The Grind  come together and being a part of the party with Senior PR Manager Milly Gattegno, MTV talent – the aforementioned Sophie and Josh – and our influencer, Kristen Hanby, from UniLad. Seeing the social response and being a part of MTV’s revival of a classic music show was amazing.

Cafe Del Mar during production of MTV’s The Grind

Monday we spent the day entertaining these guests, visiting top Maltese hot spots, including the Blue Lagoon , the famous azure blue bay on the west side of Comino island.

The Blue Lagoon, (R-L) Sophie, Josh, Catherine and Milly

The beautiful surroundings provided an ideal canvas for fun social content:

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Petals, Pizzazz and Politics—How the Season Finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race Sashayed to the Mainstream

A 29-year-old drag queen from Brooklyn, New York known as Sasha Velour is lip syncing to Whitney Houston’s So Emotional. She’s gliding across the stage; a graceful avant-garde, bald ballerina.

Arms clad in opera-length bronze gloves, Velour vogues alongside fellow queen Shea Couleé, sauntering her hips and moving her lips soundlessly. Then, she craned her neck and began tugging at her wig. Pantomiming a seizure, she grabbed each scarlet lock to unleash a cascade of rose petals—just as Houston’s ballad reached its dénouement.

Watch the performance:

It was the season 9 finale of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. Nearly 9 million people watched as Velour won the coveted title of America’s Next Drag Superstar, making Drag Race history for the most-watched finale. It was, in the eternal words of Whitney Houston, “So emotional.”

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Saying Farewell to Teen Wolf: Six Moments Audiences Will Never Forget

As MTV’s popular series Teen Wolf edges towards its conclusion (at least in its current iteration – the show is already slated for a reboot) – with the second half of the sixth and last season debuting this Sunday, July 30 – it is an ideal time to reflect on the show’s impact.

After a sometimes-terrifying, sometimes captivating, always-fun six-year run, fans are accepting that this particular set of beloved Teen Wolf characters will only be around for 10 more episodes, and a bittersweet nostalgia has descended. Tyler Posey, who plays protagonist/werewolf Scott McCall, shared his reaction to news of the show’s end in an interview with TV Line: “So much peace was in me, and happiness, looking back on everything that we’ve done as a cast, as a show, as an entity. There’s not a lot of shows that can say they’ve done that and made 100 episodes and remained friends and are going to go on to bigger and better things… I am going to bawl my eyes out, but they’re all happy tears.”

The cast seems uniformly both grateful to have been part of the show and dejected about its ending:

From the series’ beginning, Scott, a high school teenager who is bitten by a werewolf and subsequently becomes one,  experiences an endless sequence of emotional and suspenseful moments. Alongside his best friend Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Brien), Scott quickly discovers that the other students at Beacon Hills High School carry supernatural secrets of their own, and he spends the next six seasons collaborating with and battling these fellows in monsterhood.

As we prep for the final half season of howling mayhem, here’s a look back at some of the show’s most suspenseful and emotional moments [SPOILER ALERT: for those who have not seen the first five and a half seasons, the list below will give away some major plot developments]: Read More

Save the Date for the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards: Live From Los Angeles On Saturday, August 27

Dust off your spacesuits and queue your favorite “New & Noteworthy” YouTube playlist, because the VMAs are swiftly approaching.

After transforming Madison Square Garden into a terrestrial dance hall, aerobics studio and lemonade stand for last year’s ceremony, MTV is heading back to California—specifically the Forum, a historic venue in Inglewood.

“MTV, at 35 years old, has been around almost as long as the Forum,” said Forum manager Shelli Azoff in a press release. “Together, we’re 85 and enjoy lifetimes of music history.”

The Forum—sometimes called the “Fabulous” Forum—is the nation’s largest indoor performance venue, hosting sporting events and musical extravaganzas, including the 2014 VMA telecast.

MTV lands in Los Angeles for the 2014 VMAs. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

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How CMT Transformed Nashville Into Its Most Successful (And Progressive) Show

In 2015, Rolling Stone said ABC’s Nashville “reflects real-life struggles in the entertainment industry.”  This was in reference to the country soap’s gay characters, Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) and Kevin Bix (Kyle Dean Massey).

At the time, Bix was a new addition to the Nashville family, and as an openly gay singer, struggled to have a successful career. Lexington was hiding his sexual identity from his fans, while flourishing professionally.

Flash forward to 2017. Nashville moved to CMT for its fifth season earlier this year. Now, Lexington is out and proud, realizing he could still embrace his role as a country music star as an LGBT individual after being forced out of the closet in season three by a rival musician.

Since joining the CMT roster, Nashville has become the network’s highest-rated and most-watched series ever. Even after losing a beloved main character (Rayna James) in a tragic car crash, the show has remained wildly successful.

At least part of this success can be attributed to CMT’s inventive and progressive storyline and character development. Take Lexington’s evolution, for example. Entertainment blog Cinemablend commended CMT on “sprucing up” his character, giving him more than just romantic story arcs and LGBT-drama to fill his screen time.

Even the network’s portrayal of his sexuality has adopted more realistic angles. Even though Music City is full of heartbreak and drama, being a gay country singer doesn’t have to be riddled with conflict. In a recent episode that aired during Pride Month, Lexington got the opportunity to be a brand spokesperson for Budweiser.

Watch the fictional spot:

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Trevor Noah Marks Best Quarter Yet as Comedy Central’s Late-Night Universe Continues to Grow

In a time of great political turmoil, people are seeking a respite from the madness through humor – a trend evident through the recent success of Comedy Central’s late-night talk shows.

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah just marked its most-watched quarter, with an average of 1.5 million nightly viewers, according to a Comedy Central press release. The quarter contained the show’s most-watched and highest-rated week (May 29), since Noah took over from Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show’s strong ratings were reflected on social media, with more than 12 million likes, shares, comments and other interactions during the quarter across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

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Keep up the good work, Trevor!

via GIPHY

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Logo’s Trailblazer Honorees “Stood On the Shoulders of Giants” to Become Pioneers of Change for This Generation

Throughout history, art has defended the human spirit. Especially in times of political crisis, art and activism become inextricably related.

This was clear after attending Logo’s Trailblazer Honors, which celebrates the work of honorees who have made indelible contributions to LGBT civil rights—through writing, dancing, singing and producing. This year’s honorees included Cyndi Lauper; activist and author Cleve Jones (his memoir, When We Rise, inspired ABC’s miniseries by the same name); the late Alvin Ailey, who is credited with making modern dance an inclusive space for LGBT African-Americans; and the creators of NBC’s Will and Grace, Max Mutchnick and David Kohan.

Logo taped the event on Thursday, June 22 at the historic Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and aired it the following night on VH1 and Logo.

 

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Join Paramount and Al Gore in Pledging to #BEINCONVENIENT

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

On June 1, the day that President Trump announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the 195-nation Paris climate agreement, Paramount confirmed that Al Gore would edit his forthcoming Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, to include the executive turnabout.

The last-minute changes to the Jon Shenk- and Bonni Cohen-directed film should only inject more poignancy and relevance into a film that earned standing ovations and critical praise when it opened this year’s Sundance Film Festival, on the eve of Trump’s inauguration.

In both a nod to Gore’s courage and an emphatic statement of its own commitment to environmental causes, the studio has launched a Pledge to #BEINCONVENIENT, a social activation where concerned citizens can articulate their solidarity with the movement to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Those who take the pledge can record a video explaining their passions for the environment:

A companion site offers resources to help pledgees choose renewable energy and communicate their priorities to others.

The Pledge follows Paramount’s longstanding commitment to environmental action, a philosophy that permeates the organization, from employee events organized by the studio’s Green Team to helping fund the Green Production Guide for making sustainable Hollywood films.

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